Good service, tasty coffee, delicious cakes and great bread. KEN TOWL discovered there’s plenty to enjoy in the newest shop in Addiscombe
I sit drinking a Turkish coffee while Ilyas serves a customer, a Glaswegian, if my accent-detector is tuned right.
Under Caledonian instruction, Ilyas is filling a cardboard tray with glistening pieces of baklava. “This one’s pistachio, this one’s walnut.. they are both good… yes, all home made…”.
It is after 8pm, the time Ilyas suggested I come round for a chat about the shop that he has just opened on Lower Addiscombe Road. The shop is still busy, a couple of guys drinking Turkish tea and eating Turkish doughnuts at the tables in front of the counter where the baklava and some very colourful homemade cakes are on display.
Freshco is a friendly place; a couple of women come in and introduce themselves as Hungarians. Hungarians on a quest for cake. Ilyas informs them that Turks and Hungarians are practically the same people and that they will, therefore, like the cakes.
“Which one would you like?” he asks, his arm making a sweeping movement above the confection array, to which the reply is, “I want all of them. But I’m on a diet”.
They settle on a couple of slices of something and Ilyas brings me a tea and I ask him to tell me how he ended up opening up this Turkish delight of a shop in Addiscombe.
Ilyas Kus came to England 15 years ago, studied public relations and advertising, and then spent a few years running a Wetherspoons pub. Feeling he had little chance of advancement in Tim Martin’s empire, he decided to strike out on his own. His palpable enthusiasm for his multi-cultural clientele stands in stark contrast to his old boss’s championing of a no-deal Brexit.
I suggest that he has created something quite special, catering to a wide variety of people and his face lights up: “Yes, we have a lot of Turkish food, and eastern European and English.
“We are trying to provide good quality at a good price, but we want to serve everyone in Addiscombe, so we are looking at more choice, more English, Asian, Afro-Caribbean.”
The Freshco logo is everywhere; it looks quite corporate. I had Googled it earlier. Turns out there is a chain called Freshco… in Canada.
“Originally,” Ilyas informs me, “it was going to be called Anatolia Bazaar.
“But then we decided on Freshco.
“It could be a chain,” he agrees, laughing, “but this is the first one”.
When the Mayor of Croydon, Bernadette Khan, cut the ribbon in the opening ceremony last month, she described Freshco as “a wonderful experience”.
I have to agree with her. In difficult times for the high street, when only bookies and charity shops seem to thrive – and even some of them are struggling – it is great to find individuality instead of the yet another anodyne mini-Sainsburys or Tesco Express.
I am not even going to tell you about the bread. I don’t want it to run out.
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